After being accused of working against North Korea’s government, American citizen Matthew Miller was sentenced to six years of hard labor Sunday, after a trial at North Korea’s Supreme Court in Pyongyang. Miller, of Bakersfield, Calif., had entered the country on a tourist visa in April.
From Seoul, Jason Strother reports for NPR:
“Reports out of North Korea say the court found Matthew Miller guilty of trying to spy on the regime. It said Miller tore up his visa and asked for asylum in order to be thrown in jail so that he could investigate the human rights situation there. There’s reportedly no chance for him to appeal.
“Miller, who is in his mid-20s, is one of three Americans detained in the North. Kenneth Bae is already serving a 15-year sentence of hard labor. And Jeffrey Fowle is expected to soon go on trial.
“Photos from the trial show Miller, a thin man dressed in black, flanked by military officers in a small court room. A table held some of his belongings: an iPad, a phone, his passport and papers with handwritten notes and drawings.”
North Korea allowed Miller and other detainees to speak to CNN earlier this year. According to the network, Miller said he “prepared to violate the law of DPRK before coming here. And I deliberately committed my crime.”
Miller, who had reportedly been living in South Korea, originally organized his trip to North Korea through an American company, Uri Tours. But he broke away from those plans after arriving.
Uri Tours chief executive Andrea Lee tells The Los Angeles Times:
“Although we ask a series of tailored questions on our application form designed to get to know a traveler and his/her interests, it’s not always possible for us to foresee how a tourist may behave during a DPRK tour.”
Lee says the company has changed its procedures for prospective tourists, including asking for contacts who might be able to provide more insight into a traveler’s motives.
State news agency KCNA summarizes the case against Miller:
“He committed acts hostile to the DPRK while entering the territory of the DPRK under the guise of a tourist in last April.”